How to Respond to Someone Who Doesn't Want the Vaccine
COVID-19 has changed our whole lives, but with the introduction of vaccines across the country, the end is finally in sight ... but only if enough people are actually vaccinated. If your friend / aunt / co-worker tells you they are considering not getting the vaccine, you are understandably concerned - for them and for the general population. Your plan of action? Know the facts. We spoke to the experts to find out who shouldn't be getting the vaccine (hint: this is a very small group of people) and how to address the concerns of those who are skeptical.
Note: The following information pertains to the two COVID-19 vaccines currently available to Americans, developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Who should definitely not get the vaccine
Persons under 16 years of age. “Currently, the available vaccines are not approved for people under 18 years of age for Moderna and under 16 years of age for Pfizer because a sufficient number of younger participants were not included in the safety studies. Elroy Vojdani, MD, IFMCP tells us. "That may change as both companies are currently investigating the effects of the vaccine in adolescents." But until we know more, young people under the age of 16 shouldn't get the vaccine.
People who are allergic to any component of the vaccine. According to the CDC, anyone who had an immediate allergic reaction - even if it wasn't severe - to either of the two COVID-19 vaccines available should not be vaccinated.
Who should speak to their doctor before getting the vaccine?
People with autoimmune diseases. "There is no short-term evidence that the vaccine will increase autoimmunity, but we will have much larger amounts of data on it in the coming months," says Dr. Vojdani. In the meantime, patients with autoimmune diseases should discuss with their doctor whether the vaccine is the right choice for them. "In general, in this group, I tend to think that the vaccine is a much better option than the infection itself," he adds.
Those who have had an allergic reaction to any other vaccine or injectable therapy. According to the CDC, if you've had an immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease - even if it wasn't serious - you should ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. (Note: The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions that are not related to vaccines or injectable drugs, such as food, pet, poison, environmental, or latex allergies, be vaccinated.)
Pregnant woman. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says the vaccine should not be withheld from breastfeeding or pregnant people. ACOG also states that the vaccine is unlikely to cause infertility, miscarriage, harm in newborns, or harm in pregnant people. However, because the vaccines have not been studied in clinical trials in pregnant individuals, there is little safety data available to work with.
Wait, should pregnant women get the vaccine or not?
"Getting the COVID vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding is a personal choice," said Nicole Calloway Rankins, MD, MPH, a board certified gynecologist and host of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. “There is very limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. When considering whether to have the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to ask your doctor about your personal risk, ”she says.
For example, if you have underlying health problems that increase your risk of a more severe form of COVID-19 (like diabetes, high blood pressure, or lung disease), you may be more inclined to receive the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding. Likewise if you work in a higher risk healthcare environment such as a nursing home or hospital.
“Remember that there are risks in both cases. With the vaccine, you accept the risk of vaccine side effects that we previously know to be minimal. Without the vaccine, you accept the risk of developing COVID, which we know can be potentially devastating. "
Bottom line: if you're pregnant, speak to your doctor so they can assess the risks and decide if the vaccine is right for you.
My neighbor says he already had COVID-19. Does that mean he doesn't need the vaccine?
The CDC recommends that those who have contracted COVID-19 also be vaccinated. "The reason for this is that immunity to the infection is somewhat different and it is very difficult to assess it individually to decide whether or not to get it," explains Dr. Vojdani. “Their response was to recommend vaccination so you could be sure they had the level of immunity shown in the vaccine manufacturers' phase 3 trials. Since COVID is such a massive global health crisis, I understand this attitude. "
My friend thinks vaccine is linked to infertility. What should I say to her?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: "One protein that is important for the proper functioning of the placenta, syncytin-1, is similar to the spike protein that is made by receiving the mRNA vaccine," explains Dr. Rankins. “A false theory has been spread that antibodies to the spike protein resulting from the vaccine would recognize and block syncytin-1, thereby affecting placenta function. While the two share some amino acids, they are not similar enough that antibodies produced by the vaccine would recognize and block syncytin-1. “In other words, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.
Why are some members of the black community so skeptical about the vaccine?
Only 42 percent of black Americans said they would consider vaccinating, compared with 63 percent of Hispanics and 61 percent of white adults, according to a poll published in December by the Pew Research Center. And yes, that skepticism makes total sense.
A historical context: The United States has a history of medical racism. One of the most notorious examples of this was the government-sponsored Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which began in 1932 and enrolled 600 black men, 399 of whom had syphilis. These participants were tricked into believing that they were receiving free medical care but were being watched for research purposes only. The researchers didn't care for their disease effectively (even after penicillin was found to cure syphilis in 1947) and as such the men had serious health problems and died as a result. The trial didn't end until 1972 when it was exposed to the press.
And that's just one example of medical racism. There are many more examples of health inequalities among people of color, including lower life expectancy, higher blood pressure, and stress on mental health. There is also racism in the health system (black people are less likely to receive suitable painkillers and, for example, suffer from disproportionately high death rates associated with pregnancy or childbirth).
But what does that mean for the COVID-19 vaccine?
"As a black woman, I also share an ongoing distrust of the health system based on the way the health system has treated us both historically and currently," says Dr. Rankins. “However, the science and data are solid and suggest that the vaccine is effective and safe for the vast majority of people. In contrast, we know that COVID can kill otherwise healthy people and have devastating long-term effects that we are only just beginning to understand, "she adds.
Here's another factor to consider: COVID-19 affects blacks and other people of color more severely. Data from the CDC shows that more than half of COVID-19 cases in the United States have occurred in blacks and Latin Americans.
For Dr. Rankins that was the deciding factor. "I got the vaccine and I hope most people get it too."
It is unclear exactly how many Americans would need to be vaccinated to achieve "herd immunity" (i.e., the extent to which the virus can no longer spread through the population). Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, recently said the number should be between 75 and 85 percent. That is a lot. If you can get the vaccine, you should.
"It's understandable to be skeptical of something relatively new, but it's also important to put emotions aside and look at the objective evidence," says Dr. Vojani. “The evidence says the vaccine massively reduces the development of COVID-19 symptoms in those vaccinated, preventing hospitalization and death. So far, short-term side effects appear to be relatively mild and manageable, especially when compared to COVID-19 itself, and no autoimmune complications have been observed to date. This is in contrast to the infection, which has an alarming rate of chronic fatigue and post-infectious autoimmune diseases. "
If someone tells you they don't want to get the vaccine and they don't belong to any of the disqualified groups above, you can give them the facts and ask them to speak to their GP. You can also use these words from Dr. Rankins pass on, "This disease is devastating, and these vaccines will help stop it, but only if enough of us get it."
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